Annual Balloon and Rib Fest kicks off Thursday


WAUSAU (WAOW) — 30,000 people are expected to fill the field at the Balloon and Rib Fest at the downtown airport in Wausau.

It’s one of the most anticipated events in Wausau.

“It’s a great weekend to enjoy. We kind of want to celebrate the city and the community in the summer. We have a lot to offer people,” said Madison Nowak, the executive director of Wausau Events.

The dozens of vendors, colorful balloons and fireworks show bring in a huge economic impact to the area.

“This brings in a lot of tourism from around the area. We like to reach out to the surrounding communities and bring people in,” said Nowak. “We like to encourage visitors to check out our area.”

Vendors from out of state tell News 9 they all want to keep coming back.

“The people are fun to be with; they come out and they eat. It’s a successful event and I know it helps the community,” said Gary Stephens, owner of Sgt. Oinks BBQ from Ohio.

Sgt. Oinks won best sauce in last year’s rib contest.

“I have my own rub. I slow smoke them, try to get a lot of flavor in them, but I know all these cookers here we are all great cooks and can put out a great product,” said Stephens.

The biggest question everyone has is if the balloons will launch Thursday night.

“For the safety of the pilots and the public we need the wind less than seven miles and the upper winds less than 20 miles,” said Steve Woller, a balloonmeister.

Last year, the balloons launched only one night out of the four-day event.

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